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Hendricks Middle School teacher aims to make her mark on math literacy students
02172023 TOTM 1
Julia Barrett from Hendricks Middle School was voted as Forsyth County News’ Teacher of the Month for January. - photo by Sabrina Kerns

Julia Barrett always finds herself gravitating toward kids who struggle with school.

After 16 years as a teacher, Barrett said her main goal is really to make an impact on her students the way that her ninth grade math teacher made an impact on her.

“A lot of the behavior kids, the struggling kids, those are just the kids that I love,” Barrett said. “I want to make that big change. That’s why I do this.”

Teacher of the month ICON WEB

Julia Barrett

School: Hendricks Middle

Years teaching: 16

Subject: Math literacy

When Barrett was offered a position at Hendricks Middle School as a math literacy teacher to help students who need math support, she knew it was the perfect job for her.

The love and dedication shown to her students is one of many reasons why the community voted Barrett as the Forsyth County News’ Teacher of the Month for January. She spoke with the FCN about why she loves her math literacy class, what it has been like teaching at a new middle school and how she supports her students.

When did you know you wanted to be a teacher?

“My grandmother was a teacher, so I wanted to be a teacher because I saw her [grading papers] and I’ve just grown up with it.

But I’ve always wanted to be around kids. Babysitting was my first job, and everything that I’ve ever done has been around kids. Even just wanting to help people in general, but gravitating towards kids is what led me to teaching.”

What grade are you teaching in your math literacy class?

“I teach all three grade levels. I have two sixth-grade classes, two seventh-grade classes and two eighth-grade classes.

I don’t have more than 12 kids in a class…but every kid, most days, is doing something different. So, it’s like having 12 different lesson plans and then three different grade levels. I’ve never really planned as much as I do now, ever. It’s hard, but I love it.”

What are some of the main things you’re teaching students in math literacy?

“Some of the lessons I try to do in here are really the mental math things that are more real world. I feel like that helps them because some of the things they are working on right now in their grade level, they’re saying, ‘We’re never going to use this!’

But I can say yes you are. You’re going to be in a store or be in a restaurant and need to know how to turn a fraction into a decimal. That is the foundation I’m trying to build in here that they may have missed, so I’m able to say, ‘I promise this is going to help you not just in middle school or high school, but in life. These are things you’re going to use in your life really no matter what job you have.’”

Is that easier to do in a smaller classroom?

“If I were to have double the kids, they wouldn’t get the attention they need. A lot of the kids in here need one-on-one attention and help.

But I also make them struggle a little bit. I tell them that the best way to learn is by making the mistake. I remember the word that I got wrong in the spelling bee because I got it wrong. You’re going to get something wrong, then you’re learning why you got it wrong. That’s what they don’t want. They just want to skip through, but they need to learn why to learn how to fix it.

I could not do that in a class of 30. I think a small group is key.”

How do you like working at Hendricks?

“I love it. It’s incredible. The administration is incredible. The teachers who I’ve worked with, I would not be doing this job if it wasn’t for them. They encouraged me to take this position. I was unsure of myself because I have only taught math in middle school for a year, and my math lead came to me last year and said, ‘That’s your job. You have to take that job.’

I talked to our principal about it and told her my concerns and said I wasn’t sure that I was qualified. But I had several people come to me and say, ‘Those are your kind of kids.’

I can’t say enough good things about the teachers that I work with and the administration. My own child is here, she’s in seventh grade. I wouldn’t have it any other way. We got to open the school together, and I have a second-grader who is ready to come here.”